Tuesday, May 07, 2019

We’re killing everything

Humans are destroying nature at a rate unprecedented in history, a United Nations scientific review has found. Compiled by 145 authors from 50 countries over three years, a new report from the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that about 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction, while global abundance of native species has fallen by 20 per cent since 1900. The report also found more than 400 ocean “dead zones” caused by plastic and other pollution, covering an area larger than the United Kingdom. Joseph Settele, who co-authored the study, said that “ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing”. The report has been bumped from the top of most news sites because a baby was born.

Several Jewish federal MPs have been targeted with anti-Semitic abuse and vandalism. Speaking on Sunday, independent member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps said she had referred emails falsely claiming she had dual Israeli and Australian citizenship to police. The emails, sent to voters in Phelps’ eastern Sydney electorate, included hateful anti-Semitic language, echoing similar messages sent during last year’s Wentworth by-election. Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who holds the northern Sydney seat of Berowra, also contacted police on Monday after several of his election posters were vandalised with Nazi swastikas and Hitler moustaches. “I have been involved in political campaigns in Berowra for 15 years but I have never seen anything like this before”, Leeser said on Monday. Billboards and posters of federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg were similarly defaced at the weekend.

The Israeli government and Hamas have agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in an attempt to end days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. At least 25 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes, including two pregnant women and three infant children, while four Israelis were killed in rocket attacks. Violence began last week after two Israeli snipers killed two protesters and wounded 116 others, while two Hamas fighters were killed in bombing raids on Gaza. In March, the World Health Organisation estimated that at least 277 Palestinians were killed and 31,214 injured by Israeli forces since the start of the Great March of Return protests in March last year.

And the mayor of Palm Island has urged the Queensland state government to take action over the community’s lack of drinkable water. On Saturday, the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council warned residents against drinking, cooking with or otherwise consuming the town’s tap water, which has turned brown for the second time in six months. Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey told the ABC on Monday that a $1.4 million water treatment facility installed in 2017 was in need of repair, and that ageing pipes and reservoir tanks were likely to blame. In 2015, Palm Island residents claimed poor-quality tap water was making children sick.


“During her four months on the program, Florence says, she has been subjected to increased surveillance and scrutiny over her day-to-day activities. On at least one occasion, her payments were suspended for four weeks because the reporting process on the MyGov website changed without notification, and she could no longer report her income fortnightly. It took her three attempts to speak directly with a Centrelink employee in order to have the error corrected.”


“Melanie Cheng is doing the most difficult, most unfashionable thing: writing about the ordinary lives of ordinary people. Her accomplishment is catching the tremors of their uniqueness and, by underlining this, insisting that everyone is interesting. Being human is in itself extraordinary.”


“Aldous Harding is sort of like if Laurie Anderson had a baby with Björk, or if Kate Bush made a concept record with Crispin Glover. Her famed live performances see her tap in to some sort of emotional possession, inspiring such awed responses as this: ‘I was totally terrified of her, but I couldn’t look away. She looks like she’s summoning ghosts when she sings.’”


“A majority of voters think people should be paid more for working on Sundays and would like to see the minimum wage raised, Vote Compass data shows ... Vote Compass also registered strong support for raising the minimum wage, with 71 per cent in favour.”


“Mayo Liberal candidate Georgina Downer says the minimum wage is ‘about right’ after previously pushing for it to be abolished along with penalty rates ... ‘I think they basically do get it about right, but it’s an independent process, which I think is important’, she said.”



“Official Chernobyl tours, heavily regulated by the Ukrainian government, offer less each year to the growing number of visitors. The city of Pripyat is falling apart, and the death of a tourist could do serious damage to what is now a multimillion-dollar industry for Ukraine. Rules about not entering the buildings, typically somewhat lax in the past, are increasingly being enforced.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.